Don't you love all the bigotry and hatred people feel free to spew about this issue? A lot of hate freeflowing. And a lot of "normal sized" people who are nevertheless very, very ugly human beings.
The issue isn't whether or not SWA had the right to enforce their size policy. It's HOW they did it. No one should have to share their seat with another passenger and the airlines have both a right and a responsibility to ensure the safety and comfort of all their patrons.
However, there is never, ever a good reason to publicly humiliate a customer (or any human being, for that matter). If it's necessary to have a large patron prove they can fit in one seat, provide a private place for them to do so. Trust me: as someone who used to be very large and is now "normal" sized (and normal for US women is a size 14 incidentally--not tiny), I would gladly have taken advantage of an offered private "test" rather than risk a public humiliation after boarding. And if a gate agent decides to board an obese passenger in the ONE available stand-by seat, then they need to live with that decision in the absence of a complaint from another passenger.
The policy isn't the issue; the enforcement is. Stop being jerks and realize this airline that many of us (myself included) really like and patronize also really blew this situation--and demand that they better train their crews to make sure it never happens again.
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Just weeks ago I was telling my family how happy I was about the new boarding process--and looking forward to avoiding the ugly scenes I so often found in the lines as passengers would make up and enforce their own rules about "where the A line was" and who was entitled to stand/sit where. I was touting how wonderful the new solution was. I was singing Southwest's praises to anyone who would listen, as I have for years.
Then you announced this new elitist Business preference program and I am now heartsick. Southwest was the one egalitarian airline where all passengers were equal and no one a second-class citizen. All you had to do to be in the "A" group was PLAN. Now, you're essentially allowing people to buy their way into the "A" group--instantly relegating those of us who have to choose the cheapest fares to the back of the line. For many of us, it's not about being thrifty; it's about whether we can afford to fly at all.
I'm a Rapid Rewards member and have flown Southwest exclusively for the last four years, as much for the egalitarian culture as for the low fares. Now, there's no reason not to look at airlines that allow me to choose my own seat--or have more amenities (Jet Blue). I'm so sad about this. Is there NO place in American life where money doesn't buy privelege???
I hope you realize that this decision will be costing you your reputation as well as longtime customers.
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